Lainey Wilson “Flares” Out With Bell Bottom Country

LAINEY WILSON

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Breakthrough albums aren’t all that uncommon, but follow-ups that solidify and even deliver artistic improvement are much rarer beasts. Country singer-songwriter and 2021 Academy of Country Music New Female Artist of the Year Lainey Wilson strove for that type of improvement on the mighty success of her major-label debut Sayin’ What I’m Thinkin’, which featured ACM Song of the Year “Things A Man Oughta Know.” This leads us to the new record Bell Bottom Country, part album, part state of mind.

“The first record, I viewed it as a little bit of an introduction to who I am, what I want to say, and how I want to say it,” Wilson explains. “I really just felt like the second record, I needed to up my ante. I needed to show growth. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching over the past two years. A lot of the songs from my first record, I wrote in 2016, ’17, and ’18, and recorded them in ’19. All my songs are my babies, but you live life, and you grow and you develop, and so does your songwriting. I truly believe this is a huge step up for me. I was like, ‘We can’t go back.’”

Enlisting producer Jay Joyce, Wilson and her co-writers sought to broaden her sonic horizons on the new album, due out October 28. “The best way for me to explain it is country with a flair,” she says. “Whether that’s my sound, my look, or whatever it is. This record truly is about pulling back the layers to who I truly am. 

“I’m sharing way more of me than I did on the last record, and that’s important. It’s scary, but it’s important. I want people to listen to this record front to back and feel like they can be unapologetically themselves. That’s what Bell Bottom Country is. It’s about finding whatever it is that makes you different and unique and leaning into it as much as you can. Whether it’s where you’re from, the way you look, the way you talk, how you were raised, really anything. It’s about being proud of that, and being like, ‘This is who I am and I’m going to lean into it.’ And that’s what I did for this record.”

Wilson delivers statement-of-purpose songs throughout the record, as on the stomping opener “Hillbilly Hippie” and the potent “Live Off,” which gives listeners a clear idea of all that’s important to her. Along the way, bangers like “Hold My Halo” and “This One’s Gonna Cost Me” are party-first, regret-it-later anthems that, Wilson admits, she didn’t need a lot of imagination to conjure. “Watermelon Moonshine” is a cinematic remembrance of young love.

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Wilson shines on the more introspective numbers as well, such as the album’s lead single “Heart Like A Truck,” which features acoustic guitars and strings and has little to do with vehicles, but everything to do with resilience. “It’s about finding freedom and strength,” she says. “It’s a little bit about where you’ve been, but more importantly where you’re going. We’ve all been through things. I did write this song for anybody who’s ever been through heartbreak, hard time, hard luck, you name it. 

“It’s important for me to write songs that people are going to be able to connect and latch onto,” she continues. “Otherwise, what are you writing for? Of course, I’m writing for myself too, because it is therapy for me. If I didn’t have songwriting, I don’t know what in the world I would do. My job is to make people feel something. To be a light and make them feel like they’re not alone. I feel like songs like ‘Heart Like A Truck’ do that.”

On “Those Boots (Deddy’s Song),” Wilson touchingly replays formative moments spent with her father. When he endured recent health difficulties, the song took on even more meaning for Wilson. “He and my mama both are big reasons as to why I’m here in Nashville and writing music,” she explains with a slight catch in her voice. “They were my believers before I had any believers. To be able to acknowledge my daddy, it means a whole lot to me. He taught me what hard work means.” 

With a stellar new album and an upcoming role on the massively popular TV series Yellowstone that was written specifically for her by series creator Taylor Sheridan, it’s clear that hard work is about to pay off on a grand scale for Wilson. 

“I think we nailed it with this one,” she summarizes. “We had coined that phrase for the first album, but we were still trying to figure out what that was and what that looked like and sounded like. I’m proud of the way it turned out. I hope people feel like it sounds like Bell Bottom Country. Bell Bottom Country can be whatever you want it to be when it comes to yourself. But this is my version.”

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